Short form videos such as those on TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts have been revolutionizing how we connect with audiences in recent years.

66% of viewers will watch a video that’s under one minute from beginning to end, but that percentage drops off the longer a video gets.
Only 50% of viewers will completely watch a video two to 10 minutes long.
Only 39% will finish a video 10 to 20 minutes long.
Longer than that, and you’ve pretty much lost your audience.

But why will people scroll to watch several short form videos instead of finishing a long one? What’s the psychology behind the success of short form videos? Let’s explore.

Decreasing Attention Span

It’s no secret to marketers that attention spans are much shorter than they used to be, especially when using electronic devices. The world moves faster today due to technology such as text messages, email notifications, social media, immediately accessible streaming media and instantly available Internet information.

According to studies done by Dr. Gloria Marks and her colleagues at the University of California, in 2004, the average attention span on electronic devices was 2.5 minutes. Just eight years later in 2012, it was down to 75 seconds. In the last five, six years these researchers have found that the average attention span has plummeted to 47 seconds, and other studies have replicated this result within a few seconds.

With attention spans this short, it’s the rare and motivated person who will watch an entire long form video. Longer videos or articles require sustained mental effort and memory retention, which can be taxing for viewers. In contrast, short videos present information in bite-sized chunks, making it easier to process and remember. This ease of consumption aligns well with the brain’s preference for minimal cognitive effort. People today much prefer to watch a brief video and move onto something new rather than focus on one thing for any length of time.

Instant Gratification

Short form videos provide immediate rewards in the form of entertainment, humor or information, catering to the human desire for quick and satisfying experiences. The rapid consumption cycle—watching a video, enjoying a quick laugh or learning something new, and then moving on to the next—creates a feedback loop that keeps viewers coming back for more.

This cycle is reinforced by the dopamine release that occurs when we encounter something pleasurable or rewarding. Each new video offers the potential for a dopamine hit, creating a sense of anticipation and excitement. This neurochemical reward system is hard-wired into our brains and a fundamental aspect of why people find short-form videos so addictive.

Social Connection and Trends

Humans are inherently social creatures, and short-form videos tap into the desire for social connection and belonging. Platforms like TikTok thrive on trends, challenges and viral content, encouraging users to participate and engage with others. By creating or mimicking popular videos, users feel part of a larger community and gain social validation through likes, shares, and comments.

This social aspect is amplified by the algorithmic nature of these platforms, which promote content based on engagement. This personalized experience makes users feel seen and understood, further driving their engagement with the platform.

Creative Expression and Identity

Short-form videos provide a unique outlet for creative expression and self-identity. The accessibility and simplicity of creating and sharing videos lower the barrier for content creation, allowing more people to express themselves in diverse ways. Marketers can tap into this by running contests promoting user-generated content where users develop videos that feature the brand, such as showing the world how they use the product.

Emotional Touchstones

Short form videos are a particularly effective way to evoke strong emotions quickly. Whether it’s humor, surprise, empathy, or inspiration, these videos often pack an emotional punch that resonates with viewers.

Short-form videos often depict everyday situations, struggles, and triumphs that viewers can easily identify with. This relatability fosters a deeper emotional connection and enhances the viewer’s engagement with the content.

FOMO and Social Proof

Trends move at a rapid pace today, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful motivator in the digital age. Short-form videos play into this fear by creating a sense of urgency and immediacy. The rapid pace at which trends and viral content emerge and fade encourages users to stay constantly connected to avoid missing out on the latest popular video or challenge.

Social proof, the psychological phenomenon where people mirror the actions of others to reflect correct behavior, also plays a significant role. When users see content with high engagement—likes, shares, comments—they are more likely to engage with it themselves.

Anytime, Anywhere

We may often be in a rush today, but we can watch short form videos anytime and anywhere, knowing we have time to watch to the end. Standing in line at the bank, commuting on a train or bus to work, or just killing time before an appointment, watching short form videos on our phones are an easy way to fill the void.

Ready to Try Your Hand at Short Form Videos?

The popularity of short-form videos can be attributed to a complex interplay of psychological factors. From catering to shortened attention spans and the need for instant gratification to fostering social connections and providing outlets for creative expression, these videos resonate deeply with the human psyche.

If you would like to tap into this but, you would like help creating short form videos or other marketing services, schedule a fee consultation with an Umbrella Local Expert by going to our website or calling (646)440-1426.